Monday, February 14, 2022

Universal Studios

This article first appeared in July, 2017.

Alyssa works for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians as their Activities Coordinator for the Education Department.  She loves her job.  I have had the pleasure of doing a few contract gigs for them here and there.  Yesterday, they rewarded their employees with an Employee Appreciation Day at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Universal Studios
What is Employee Appreciation Day?

It included complementary admission for Alyssa, myself, and our boys, complementary parking (a $25 value alone!), and a complementary meal voucher each! It also included a private party, extra hours, and a whole day of fun.  More on that later!

The park was open to the public from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm but for us, it was open from 7:00 am until midnight.  We opted not to go in early.  We started our day by sitting in terrible traffic at 9:30 am.  It took us nearly 2 hours to get there and get parked.  We parked in the ET lot at the far end of City Walk.  After a brisk walk through the outdoor shopping mall, we ended up at security to have our pockets emptied.  Remember when that wasn't a thing?  Finally, we were through the turnstiles.

It being lunch time, we headed for a bite to eat.  After some disappointing options near the entrance, we made our way back to Gru's Lab Cafe.


Rotisserie Chicken

Almost gone BBQ pulled pork sandwich

We opted to use a couple of vouchers and split meals.  The food here was fast and delicious.  It's tucked back near Minion Mayhem at the end of the French and British areas.  I would opt for eating here again!

French Street

The Queue

My boys!

After eating, we opted to go on Minion Mayhem since we were right there.  The wait was a bit longer than I thought worth the attraction.  Like many of the attractions in this crowded park, it's a motion simulator.  It's cute and fun but I won't wait for it again.  I miss T2!

Revenge of the Mummy

After a quick walk through Super Silly Fun Land, we then headed down to the Lower Lot.   We spent $20 on 4 bottles of water.   Revenge of the Mummy has been one of my favorite rides there since it opened.  It's a dark and fast coaster. Tyler stayed off because he doesn't do coasters.  Honestly it was a little disappointing this time.  Maybe I am remembering it with nostalgia goggles but I thought it was a bit slow.

The Raptor Meet and Greet

We met a raptor before jumping on Jurassic Park to cool off. We opted to use the Single Rider line because we are humans that know we'll see each other in 3 minutes and would rather ride alone than waste an hour of the day waiting in line.  I was so focused on getting cool that I enjoyed the ride about as much as I used to.  Tyler again stayed off because he isn't a fan of the drop.


We headed across to Transformers: The Ride 3-D.  Like Minion Mayhem, this ride was a first for us.  We, again, opted for Single Rider line and all 4 of us rode.  It's a combo of motion simulation and practical effects.  It's a pretty exciting ride.




Heading back up to the Upper Lot, I tried something I have always wanted to have there.  I grabbed a Duff Beer from the Duff Brewery Beer Garden in Springfield.  Let me tell you, this is one tasty, if not very overpriced beer.  It was perfect in the hot weather.

I went back for a night shot

Good turn out!


Aaron didn't want to do this.

We then headed back to the Globe Theatre for the private party just for San Manuel employees.  We enjoyed complementary lemonade and ice cream treats as well as character meet and greets, a DJ, games, dancing, prizes, and air conditioning.  I even won a portable speaker and a Starbucks gift card answering trivia questions!

The entrance


Once we cooled off, we headed to the parks newest area. We began our first visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  As hard as it was to not gawk at everything, the goal was to get back to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey as fast as possible because that was my one must do for the day as I had not yet been on it.


The Sorting Hat

We walked into the Single Riders line here because why wait 2 hours when you can wait 15 minutes?  Tyler stayed off because he was scared of this one too.  The ride broke down at the very end and they let us ride again if we wanted to by skipping the line.  We opted to do it and I told Tyler it was a ride he would enjoy so he jumped on too.

Let me tell you, Tyler loved it.  We all did.  I am in no way a "Potterhead".  I don't know the names of stuff.  In fact, Tyler was mad at me all day for mispronouncing another attraction.  I have seen each film exactly one time and I have never even cracked a book open.  That being said, this is one of the best attractions I have ever been on in any theme park.  The use of technology to give me a motion simulator/roller coaster/Haunted Mansion experience like no other is astounding.  The attention to detail in the design of the attraction is phenomenal.  You'll understand why we ended up riding this two more times later in the day.

Hagrid's House


After the best attraction ever, we walked across to Flight of the Hufflepuff...err...Flight of the Hogglewart....err...Flight of the HippityHoppity...  oh wait, my son tells me it's Flight of the Hippogriff.  Oddly, this is one coaster he likes.  It was fun but the wait in an un-shaded cue for 40 minutes was a bit much.

The Three Broomsticks

We headed over to the Three Broomsticks for dinner and using our remaining two vouchers and a little cash for sides and additional beverages, we feasted like Wizards!

Our Feast

A Shepard's pie, garden salad, spare ribs platter, corn on the cob and roasted potatoes were washed down with pear ciders, Boar's Head Scottish Ale, and Butterbeers.  This restaurant is well themed and for a moment, I forgot I was in a theme park.  The food was amazing and the drinks were spot on!



Andrew and Alyssa

Aaron and Tyler

We rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey again and then we took some more photos and headed out to return to the land of Muggles.

Inside the Theatre

The stage

We serendipitously walked into the Special Effects show where we discovered my colleague and friend, Laura, as the star.  It's a lovely show.

The Simpsons

We headed back to The Simpsons and all 4 of us went on it.  This is a terrible use of a motion simulator.  Seating makes it so the back row can't see half the screen. We headed over to The Walking Dead and the boys and I went through the well themed, year round maze.

We grabbed a snack before heading back down to the Lower Lot again.

Lower Lot
Do we look tired yet?

The view from the platform

The Mummy

Jurassic Park

Once down there, Tyler decided he wanted to try The Mummy this time so all 4 of us road it and he did great!  It was seemingly faster this time!  Then Aaron and I jumped in the Single Rider line to get a nighttime go on Jurassic Park.  Here comes my one real complaint.  I noticed all the things I didn't notice in the earlier time on the ride.  It sucks.  It's outdated, broken, and terrible at night.  I am sorry Universal but you are spending how many millions to make a new trilogy and Jurassic World made how much?  Perhaps you could fix the Jeep that is supposed to careen down the wall, light the damn dinosaurs at night so we can actually see them, and, you know, try to hid a few of the cables on the T-Rex.  It also couldn't hurt to add a bit of new dinos.  There are what, 7 on the ride?  There is plenty of space to add a few more.

After that one disappointment on the day, we headed back to the Upper Lot and to Hogsmeade to check out The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle.  It's a very short projections and light show on the side of the very detailed building.  It was worth the watch.  You saw the photos of the already gorgeous building during the day up above, right?


Check out the ones I took during the show below...

Before the show

That's projections!

Amazing, right?


Not a painting!

We rode the ride again after the show and literally walked on through the Single Rider line.  Yes.  We rode it 4 times today.  15 attractions and 2 meals in under 12 hours!  Thank you Single Rider lines!  Thank you San Manuel for taking care of your employees!  Thank you Universal for a great day!